Steamboat Springs New Zealand reggae band Katchafire first opened for the legendary Wailers about seven years ago, an experience that vocalist and guitarist Logan Bell called nothing short of “jaw-dropping.”
“We were just absolutely in awe,” Bell said. “We are students of The Wailers. … What an awesome unit.”
On Sunday in Gondola Square, Katchafire will open for the former band of reggae king Bob Marley once more in the final installment of the Bud Light Rocks the Boat free concert series. The show starts at 2 p.m. with Katchafire, and The Wailers go on at 3 p.m. The show is free.
The seven-man roots reggae band Katchafire has a few special connections to The Wailers aside from sharing the stage on several occasions around the world.
Its name comes from Bob Marley and The Wailers’ 1973 album “Catch a Fire,” an apt name for a group that started off as a Marley cover band.
Bell said the reggae tradition has strong roots in New Zealand culture, especially that of its indigenous people, the Maori tribes.
“We’re an island nation colonized by the British,” Bell explained. “And there’s a lot of similarities with the messages Bob was talking about.”
He said the Maori culture latched on to those messages easily, making New Zealand one of the top consumers of Marley and reggae albums.
It was the late 1970s when Marley first played in New Zealand, and Bell said the aggressiveness of two rival Maori tribes resulted in a near brawl at the concert.
But it was Marley’s messages of peace and love — and his request for the tribes to lower their flags during the show — that brought the Maori people together for that moment.
“For that concert, they lowered their flags and got down as one people,” Bell said.
Aside from Marley’s obvious impact on Katchafire’s sound and philosophy, the group also takes a lot of its direction from members’ Maori legacy.
“It’s a huge part of our heritage and culture, and we walk tall with that,” Bell said. “Our people have always had a great mind for being resourceful. We’re the keepers of the land.
“To me, today, (being Maori) means showing that we can exist and live in our cultural world with our treaty partners, the colonizers.”
Musically, Maori culture means a lifetime of music and harmonizing in song.
“Maori people love singing, and we kind of get born into the guitar,” he said. “We love to harmonize as a Maori culture. I think a lot of Polynesian cultures like to harmonize, and we’ve been known for strong three-, four- and five-part harmonies.”
Throughout its 15 years as a band, Katchafire’s tough work ethic has seen members through to international recognition, playing world tours on nearly every continent.
He said it helps that the band is not only figuratively a family, but is intertwined through actual blood relations.
His father, Jordan, plays drums, and his brother Grenville plays lead guitar.
“We keep each other in line; that’s definitely one of the strengths the band has, having the honesty of family around you, being able to speak your mind,” he said. “Just having that true love.”
But Bell attributes their success to the culture of reggae music as a whole that has infiltrated music scenes across the globe.
“It’s definitely humbling, and we’re grateful for that, but it’s the reggae music,” he said. “It crosses over cultures and ages. That’s what reggae music does.”
To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com